Learning how to roast vegetables is a skill that will take you far in the kitchen! Roasted vegetables are the heart of so many meals (like this Moroccan Bowl) and they make for perfect complementing side dishes. But, what if you're following an oil-free diet or reducing your oil intake? The good news is you don't have to miss out! You can still achieve a naturally sweet, delicious end result —sans oil.
In this post, we’ll share some modifications and cooking tips to help you roast your vegetables without oil. Plus, we’ll include some recipes that are loaded with roasted veggies, so you can enjoy them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
Cooking 101: 6 steps to roast vegetables without oil
The key to roasting vegetables without oil is to toss them in a little flavorful liquid (e.g. stock, no-oil dressings, etc.) to wet them a little before seasoning. Also, similar textured vegetables can go together on the same pan, but it’s best to have different vegetables on separate trays since they cook at different rates.
Tip: When placing veggies onto the baking sheet, lift the vegetables out of the bowl and shake off any excess liquid as this will only create steam during the cooking process, when you want to roast them.
Here’s a breakdown of the six steps to roast veggies without oil:
First, no matter what vegetable you choose to roast, you’ll want to wash, dry, and (optionally) peel it.
Cut the vegetable in even pieces to ensure it cooks at the same rate. Generally, you’ll want to cut them in about the size of a thumb for bite-size pieces. We know it can be hard to cut even pieces for asymmetrical veggies (turnips, carrots, etc). Just do your best!
Then, toss them in a bowl with some sort of liquid like water, lemon, or lime juice. Vinaigrettes or non-oil dressings can also add good flavor. But don’t add too much liquid or it will steam rather than roast.
Optional: Season them with pepper, herbs, ginger, zest, garlic, etc. Get creative and have fun with it! Keep in mind these ingredients can burn more easily if you don’t have oil – so you might want to check on your veggies mid-way.
Scatter veggies in a single layer on a heavy-duty shallow sheet pan that allows for even heat distribution. Avoid flimsy pans that’ll often warp.
Make sure excess liquid is left in the bowl. And place them cut side down when applicable – the more surface area in contact with the pan, the more color will develop
BONUS: 5 additional tips for roasting without oil
Here are some additional tips for roasting without oil for delicious results and easy cleanup:
Use a non-stick pan, parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (e.g. Silpat) to ensure that vegetables do not stick to the pan. We prefer the latter because it’s reusable and allows the veggies to brown better.
If using spray oil, use minor amounts to prevent sticking and help the vegetables release properly. One or two sprays should be sufficient.
Slow roasting vegetables and roots in a foil bag allows them to steam in their own juices. This helps them retain their sweetness. It also combines the benefits of roasting and steaming and is a great way to bring out the earthy sweetness of beets, sweet potatoes, and squashes. But it’s not traditional “roasting.”
When vegetables are roasted without oil the finished product is a bit drier than it would be otherwise. However, finishing the roasted vegetables and adding flavor post-cooking, such as by tossing them in a small amount of high flavor liquid will boost flavor and add complementary flavor notes to the dish.
You can also finish with a little of the left-over liquid or dressing you used before roasting to coat the vegetables and then add other ingredients, such as fresh herbs, chopped toasted nuts, Plant-Based Parmesan, spices or seed blends.
Plant-based recipes with roasted vegetables
Put this new cooking skill to good use! From yummy bowls to delicious sides, these recipes will show off your roasted veggie is all their goodness.
Cauliflower Tikka Masala -Keto-Friendly (pictured above)
Read more cooking tips to eat more plants and ways to transition to a plant-based diet.
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Alice C. ( 1yr ) – I have roasted some veggies before but used oil. Since I want to eliminate oil from my diet these are some good tips for me to use. Thank you
Swich C. ( 1yr ) – We’re so happy you found this helpful! You might also enjoy this article on how to avoid overcooking or undercooking veggies. https://thebigswich.com/blog/how-to-avoid-undercooking-or-overcooking-your-veggies
Dalene S. ( 1yr ) – Thank you. Can’t wait to start.
Swich C. ( 1yr ) – You’re welcome. Enjoy!
Leslie N. ( 1yr ) – Am looking forward to have a new way of cooking. Will try the potato, pepp, corn hash this weekend.
Swich C. ( 1yr ) – Let us know what you think of the recipe when you try it :)
Darlene R. ( 1yr ) – I do however prefer a bit of olive oil to roast my veggies
Swich C. ( 1yr ) – We have a great lesson on roasting veggies with oil :) https://thebigswich.com/path/step/749418
Ololade A. ( 1yr ) – This is interesting can’t wait to start
Swich C. ( 1yr ) – Let us know how it goes!
Anne L. ( 1yr ) – I am just starting and it seems very exciting & yummy.
Off to bed so tomorrow will read more *
Swich C. ( 1yr ) – Welcome to Swich! We are so happy you’re here!
Jennifer C. ( 1yr ) – I’m Jennifer, a plant-based entrepreneur who is super excited to be a part of this platform. The mission is lofty; the level of education and information for free makes it easier for so many people to access a plant-based, culinary education where they otherwise wouldn’t be able to as well as empower themselves to eat more nutrient dense foods. So happy to be part of this community.
Swich C. ( 1yr ) – Hi Jennifer! Welcome – we are so happy you’re here!